Sousuke had been acting strange all week.
Of course, Kaname could make the argument that Sousuke was always strange, but this felt different. He jumped whenever she walked into a room and he was jittery in a way she had never seen before. The worst part though had to be that he had fallen into a silence that she couldn’t seem to break through. No matter what topic she tried to bring up, he would just nod his head and keep his eyes firmly away from her face. It was beginning to scare her.
As she cleaned up the dinner dishes from earlier that evening, she watched him walk to their bedroom and close the door. She tried to convince herself that she was imagining things, that he would discuss whatever was going on with him when the time was right, but the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach wouldn’t go away. She couldn’t get over the fear that his behavior indicated a change for them, and the life they had together was coming to an end.
Tears leaked from the corners of her eyes and she pulled in a deep breath. Whatever was going to happen, she was determined to make the best of it. So what if she had believed the two of them were meant to be? People broke up all the time, didn’t they? Surely they weren’t special just because they had been through hell and back together. They weren’t immune to the same problems other couples had faced. Didn’t they fight all the time? Sometimes they even shouted and slammed doors and slept separately… but still… despite all that, she had always believed they would spend the rest of their lives together.
What had happened to change that?
She gave up on finishing the dishes and let herself fall into one of their kitchen chairs, staring at her hands. In the two years since they had reunited, things had been good. Their life hadn’t been easy by any means as Sousuke had struggled to adjust to civilian life and they both suffered from frequent nightmares, but they had had each other. Through finishing up the last year of high school they had missed and getting into university, through every single trial of living an everyday life, they had had each other. Together they been through the worst of the nightmares and come out the other side clinging to each other. Even as recently as last week things had been good, they had been happy. She couldn’t think of a single thing that could have happened to make him act this way toward her. Had it been building over time and she just hadn’t noticed it? Had he finally gotten tired of trying to live a peaceful life with her? She just didn’t know… and it was an ache that made her nauseous.
The sound of the bedroom door opening caught her attention and she looked up to see Sousuke in the doorway, a resolute look in his eyes. It seemed to her like he had come to some kind of decision, and even though she feared what it might be, she was also relieved. At least she wouldn’t have to live through any more awkward meals trying to make polite conversation. At least she would finally know what was on his mind.
“Kaname, it’s getting late,” he said, his eyes meeting hers for the first time in days. “Will you come to bed with me?”
Her stomach clenched sickeningly at the thought of lying next to him while he broke things off between them. Not that it was a certainty, but she could read the signs. It couldn’t possibly be good news with the way he had been acting. She let out a sigh and got up out of the chair, surprised when he closed the distance between them and took her hand in his, threading his fingers through hers. It was such a sweet show of affection, something that had been missing between them for the last few days. It felt like emotional whiplash, and she wondered if she had had the wrong idea about his recent behavior.
But if he wasn’t breaking up with her, what was going on?
He led her by the hand back to the bedroom and waited patiently while she got ready for bed. Most nights she found it sexy that he couldn’t keep his eyes off her while she stripped down and put on one of the slinky, silky nightgowns she had bought with him in mind. Tonight she was nervous, her uncertainty over Sousuke’s behavior making her hands tremble and her cheeks flush as blood rushed to her face. She hadn’t blushed at being naked in front of him for a long time. It seemed that her old nerves were making an appearance, spurred on by his strange behavior.
“You’re staring,” she told him as she slid a powder blue negligee over her head.
He was sitting up against the headboard, his eyes fixed on her body. She could see the desire in the intensity of his gaze, and it warmed her from the inside out even as it confused her. “I was just wondering if I would ever get tired of watching you prepare for bed. You move so gracefully that it’s hard to keep my eyes off you.”
Kaname’s breath caught in her chest at his words. They were so unlike him. She loved him more than anything in the world, but he wasn’t a romantic. It was like pulling teeth trying to get him to compliment her, or sweep her off her feet. He told her he loved her almost every day, but that was pretty much the extent of his sweet nothings.
She held her tongue as she turned off the lights and crawled into bed next to him. If she asked him what was going on in his head, he might revert back to the sullen, quiet man she had spent the last week with. It was better just to keep quiet and hope he would finally tell her what was on his mind. So, she snuggled up in his arms, content that for the moment he seemed to want her there.
It didn’t take them long to settle into a comfortable spooning position, her body nestled perfectly against him while one of his arms held her tight and his other rested along the pillows above their heads. Most nights she drifted off to sleep in just this position, soothed by his fingers stroking from her rib cage down to her hip. Tonight though he lay still, his hand wrapped firmly around her as if to keep her from going anywhere. It was unusual for him and it brought back the feelings of unease she had been fighting all week.
“I love you,” she whispered to him in the darkness, needing to say the words before he said whatever it was he had been holding in. “No matter what you need to tell me, I need you to know that I love you.”
His grip tightened on her side and he let out a shaky breath, his body trembling with it. She felt his forehead drop into her shoulder, as though he was struggling to get the words out. She hated that this was bothering him so much. She wanted to tell him that if it was this hard, he didn’t have to say it at all, but she knew it wasn’t true. If he didn’t get it off his chest, they were just going to continue on as they had been… and that was intolerable to her.
“Do you know what today is?”
His question surprised her. What day was it? Certainly not either of their birthdays, no holiday she could think of. “I’m sorry. I don’t think I do.”
He sighed, his breath warm and moist against her neck. “Three years ago today I lost you. I had to watch as Leonard took you away and all I could do was promise to find you and bring you back home.”
She closed her eyes against the pain of the memory. It was a day she hated to remember. She had betrayed him that day, had walked away from him while he believed with everything in him that she was scared of him… that she didn’t want him. If that’s what had been on his mind lately, she could understand why he had been so quiet and distant. The memory wasn’t a happy one for either of them. It was no wonder he couldn’t look her in the eye.
“Sousuke… I’m sorry,” she whispered. She felt the apology to the depths of her soul, but knew that nothing she ever did could make up for what had happened that day. It had been what started the longest, most hellish year of their lives.
He brought his hand up, his fingers touching her lips to quiet her. She wanted to turn in his arms, to look in his eyes and see what he was thinking, but she didn’t. If he had wanted to look in her eyes while he was talking to her, he would have. It was probably easier for him to get the words off his chest this way.
“What you don’t know is that earlier that morning, while we were waiting for the Mithril rendezvous that never came, I…” he paused, and she could feel him take a deep breath, “I was going to ask you to run away with me.”
The words didn’t make sense inside her head. “I don’t understand.”
He moved his hand back down to her side, holding her close again as the words spilled from him almost too fast for her to keep up. “You know that after that mission in Hong Kong I was ready to quit it all. I thought you were dead, thought I would never see you again, and nothing seemed to matter anymore. After things went back to normal, I realized that a calm, peaceful life with you was all I really wanted. When Leonard showed up and practically begged you to go with him, when he told you what I monster I was… I knew that we couldn’t continue the way we were. I didn’t want you to be shut up in some Mithril safehouse for the rest of your life. I wanted to be with you. While you changed in the backseat of the car, I wanted to beg you to throw everything away and run away with me… just the two of us.”
A strangled cry caught in her throat as she thought about that day through his eyes. He had loved her even then, had wanted to steal her away and keep her safe and protected at his side. He had wanted to beg her to run away with him and leave everything else behind, but he hadn’t because of the way she had treated him after Leonard’s visit. He had assumed she would have turned him away, rejected him. It was easier not knowing what her answer would have been than having her turn him down. The worst part was that she couldn’t honestly say she would have chosen him then.
“Sousuke…” She didn’t know what to say in response to his admission. All she knew was that she didn’t deserve him, had never deserved him. It was lucky for her that he loved her enough to overlook that fact.
He was quiet for a long moment, and then let out a soft sigh. “Kaname, I couldn’t bring myself to ask you then, but I need to ask you now. Would you be willing… could you accept me as I am, dark past and all? Can you look beyond my life before I met you and make a fresh start with me?”
She did turn in his arms then, unable to waste even one more moment without being able to look into his eyes. When she did, she saw that he was scared. It was the same expression she saw on his face when she had left with Leonard. He was terrified that she was going to reject him. The days of silence, of uncertainty, of disconnect, finally made sense. He had been planning this for tonight, and he had been scared of losing her the whole time. How could she have ever worried he was going to end it between them?
Trembling fingertips touched his lips as she fought back a wave of emotion. “I can’t imagine a future without you in it. And I can’t hold your past against you because it made you the man I love. I wouldn’t want you any other way.”
And that was true, wasn’t it? She had had the opportunity to erase his past and make them a brighter, cleaner future, and she had decided against it. His past, their memories together, none of it could be erased without changing what they had together. She wasn’t willing to give any of that up.
He let out a shuddering breath and crushed her against his chest. “Will you run away with me, Kaname? Will you marry me?”
She watched in stunned silence as he moved his arm from where it had been resting above her head on the pillows, and he opened his clenched fist to reveal a small black velvet box. He pushed the lid open with his thumb and showed her the ring he had picked out for her. Even in the darkness she could see the small, delicate silver band with three stones set into it: a dark blue lapis lazuli, flanked by two perfect rubies. Their birthstones.
For a long moment all she could do was stare at the ring that he had most likely searched endlessly for. It was such a perfect symbol of them, to have their stones set in a band that symbolized the endless commitment they would make to each other. One that she had made long before she even realized it herself.
She opened her mouth to promise him the world, but found herself saying something unexpected: “On one condition.”
His eyes were intense on hers, and she could see the fear there in the gray depths. He was still expecting her to reject him, even as he was offering her his heart in his hand. “I’ll give you anything in my power to give.”
Her lips turned up in a smile, the first one she had worn all night. She clenched his shirt in her hands and pulled him in for a hot, open mouthed kiss that left them both breathless. “Promise me that it’s forever, or no deal,” she whispered against his lips. “If we’re doing this, I’m never letting you go for as long as I live.”
Sousuke took advantage of the nearness of her lips and kissed her again, though it was tender and filled with promise. “I’ll love you forever, Kaname,” he vowed, cupping her cheek in his palm. “You are the only thing in my life I’ve ever truly wanted.”
That was good enough for her. She beamed at him and wrapped her arms around his neck to pull him close. “Yes, of course I will marry you.”
“I love you,” he said again, his words fervent and filled with love as he brought his lips once more to hers.